A passion for purpose and resilience in learning at IBM Canada

By | 5 minute read | December 18, 2020

One thing that our final three IBM Service Corps (ISC) projects in Canada have in common – they’re focused on executing two elements of IBM’s Corporate Social Responsibility mission: improving education and skills development as well as supporting community resilience. In response to COVID-19, IBM Canada has partnered with the social purpose sector to address the sector’s digital transformation needs; build a demand-led Good Jobs pilot; and, help educators and students better access STEM curriculum and resources.

ISC Local offers IBM employees an opportunity to give back to their local communities, while strengthening their skill set in leadership, client-facing problem solving, consulting, web design, project management and Enterprise Design Thinking to name a few.

Three teams of IBMers recently dedicated at least six weeks of their time on their respective projects, assessing the challenges experienced by their assigned non-profit, researching, and conducting workshops to flush out all aspects of the issue, resulting in the delivery of proposals that aim to resolve social and business problems with a viable solution.  Let’s take a look at a summary of each engagement.

Project 1: Serving the social purpose sector

Technovate is a  growing coalition of concerned corporate and public sector partners who have come together to accelerate the digital transformation of the social purpose sector which includes charities, nonprofit organizations, and social enterprises. The Technovate Steering Committee includes Royal Bank of Canada, Community Foundations Canada, Ontario Trillium Foundation, IBM Canada, and Canadian Tire Jumpstart.

The Enterprise Design Thinking ISC engagement with Technovate brought a team of 8 IBMers together with 56 members of the social purpose sector to create representative personas, a future collaboration model, and an action plan to bring the model to life. By gaining stakeholders’ buy-in to the action plan, the team is excited to see the digital transformation play out. You can also visit the team’s project website to learn more.

The Technovate project was one of the pivotal moments in my career that I will forever be able to look back on as a moment in time in which my passion and my job intersected perfectly. The skills in stakeholder management, Enterprise Design Thinking and the individuals I had the privilege to work alongside have allowed me to grow in ways and at a speed, I never thought was possible.” – Kenji Northrup

Thanks to the IBM Team for supporting this important digital transformation project:

Annie Akpan, Emily Bridges, James Holloway, Katherine Langdon, Sara Mahmood, Utpal Mangla, Kenji Northrup and Heather Ricciuto


Project 2: Centralizing skill development for job seekers

The Inclusive Local Economies Opportunities (ILEO) was initiated in 2018 by United Way Greater Toronto (UWGT) and BMO Financial, adding the City of Toronto in 2019. This year IBM Canada joined the effort with GM, Claude Guay, at the Leadership Table, as well as the Steering Committee for the Good Jobs Pilot. The ILEO Good Jobs Pilot supports a centralized, demand-driven skill development initiative for marginalized job seekers requiring technical training and a comprehensive suite of soft skills training, and wraparound supports.

The IBM Team was tasked with building a scalable workforce development model for United Way that removes barriers to employment for residents of targeted neighbourhoods while resolving workforce retention issues faced by employers. Upon successful completion of the pilot with Sun Life Financial, the model could be scaled to neighbourhoods and employers across Canada to tackle employment challenges nationally. For the pilot project, key activities from the model, such as leveraging IBM’s SkillsBuild platform, will be used to create the first program – matching residents of the Greater Golden Mile of Toronto with an in-demand, high-turnover role at Sun Life. The team embedded continuous improvement at the core of their approach which ensured the two components of the project would continue to evolve.

This project has impacted me the most in seeing corporate and community leaders’ commitment to address the need for inclusive workforce development to ignite economic opportunities for neighbourhood revitalization. It was important for me to participate on this project for professional growth in consulting and thought leadership to lend help to the Good Jobs initiative which promotes inclusion with societal actions. Our ISC team has delivered a scalable model that can be shared with other cities to create lasting inclusive economic prosperity for neighbourhoods.– Janice Mah

“This was an amazing opportunity to develop my skills, learn from a new team of IBMers, and do meaningful work. For example, I had the chance to facilitate design thinking sessions with our project partners and collaborate with an outstanding group of IBMers from different areas of the company, all while learning about workforce development and making an important impact in the community.” – Olivia Donner

Kudos to the small but mighty IBM Team for donating their time to this critical piece of work:

Annie Akpan, Bianca Canave, Olivia Donner and Janice Mah


Project 3: Enabling math education

JUMP Math’s mission is to help educators excel at and enjoy teaching math and, in doing so, instill confidence and a joy of learning in their students. Their vision is a well-designed core math program that pairs math achievement with the development of 21st century skills in preparation for success in STEM careers.

The second ISC engagement with JUMP Math took the website prototype developed by IBMers during Phase I of the ISC project (in the spring of 2020) and built JUMP Math’s new website for an improved end-user experience. With a focus on establishing a new e-commerce store, the new website will replace the current website, reducing time for maintenance. The store component was designed to help teachers, educators and parents more easily obtain and access the materials they need to help teach their students/children math.

“This was a wonderful experience for me. Not only did I get to work with an amazing organization, JUMP Math, I was able to meet and work with wonderful people within IBM and outside IBM who have a passion to do good in this world.  I was able to learn new skills in the area of web development, which is an area of keen interest for me and will help me with future engagements. I’m truly privileged to have had this opportunity.” – Christine Baghdassarian

Thanks to the IBMers involved in Phase 2 of JUMP Math’s web presence enhancements:

Christine Baghdassarian, Steven Geiger, David Gwyn and Jake Irwin

For more about IBM’s Corporate Social Responsibility programs and initiatives, including the IBM Service Corps, visit IBM.org.